Gov. Baker pushes $18 billion transportation spending bill

George_Apley

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Another framing from Commonwealth Mag. Excerpts below.

Baker, Legislature at odds on transportation funding
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER and the Legislature are at odds on how much money is needed to fix the state’s ailing transportation infrastructure.

Baker appeared before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday, highlighting a series of major investments his administration has already made and a long list of others he wants to fund with an $18 billion bond bill. More than $10 billion would go for roads and bridges, $5.7 billion to the MBTA, $50 million to address transportation bottlenecks across the state, and $50 million for tax credits to promote telecommuting.

“I think it’s important to stress here, this capital plan, and the massive growth in activity it entails, can be completely executed with the funding that is currently available,” Baker told the lawmakers. “I know this is counterintuitive to argue at a bond bill hearing, but funding is actually the easiest part of the critical paths we face.”
The big number is getting headlines, but let's be honest, this is not the transformative vision that we've been waiting for. $5.7B for the MBTA? Call me when they propose a total bond of close to $20B for transit.

Straus and Boncore appear to be in sync, and they say the leaders of their two chambers are also on the same page when it comes to the need for additional transportation revenues, which would leave Baker as the odd man out. Straus is working with two other members of Speaker Robert DeLeo’s leadership team on a transportation bill the House is expected to take up before the branches recess for this year.

Both Straus and Boncore appear to be leaning toward an increase in the gas tax, and possibly other revenue-raising measures as well. Both are wary of waiting for the revenue from the carbon fee on automobile fuels.
Compare this to the Deval Patrick vs DeLeo calculus where the Guv wanted more revenues and the legislature shot it down. Now it's flipped. The legislature is ready to talk new revenues. The governor, true to form, is playing accounting tricks to avoid talking about new revenues (carbon fee aside). How about talking about transformative reform like vehicle miles traveled replacing the gas tax?

As big as Baker’s bond bill is, it doesn’t include funding sources for a number of projects and initiatives. Initial seed money is available for such projects as connecting the Red and Blue lines and overhauling the commuter rail system, but long-term funding hasn’t been identified.
So the pressure needs to be kept on... BLX is a must have.
 

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